Libertarian Hawk


Throwing “The Book” at Obama

January 04, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Elections: 2012

While the left-wing media delight over Republican 2012 presidential nominees’ slugfest in early-state caucuses and primaries in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, some forward-thinking conservatives are engaged in a constructive plan to win the general election no matter who the nominee is.

Crafty Republican National Committee staffers are compiling a 500-page document, known informally as “The Book,” that juxtaposes direct quotes and video clips of Obama making grandiose promises with statistics on the reality of how his efforts have turned out.  The compendium, which covers 2008-2011, promises to be a virtual treasure trove of fodder for 2012 general election GOP campaign ads, chock full of sound bites coupled with cold, hard facts that will yield devastating and irrefutable attack ads.  RNC communications director Sean Spicer boasts, “We have everything he has done and said catalogued six ways to Sunday.”

Republicans tried using Obama’s words against him once before, in the 2008 general election; however, a fawning press, a weak GOP nominee, and an electorate asleep at the wheel mitigated the impact of such Obama albatrosses as “Spread the wealth around,” “Electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket,” and “A guy who lives in my neighborhood.”

The press is still sycophantic, and Republicans still need to ferret out a strong candidate from among the choices they have, but the electorate will not so easily be lulled this time.  Voters have witnessed Obama in action for three years, and they don’t like what they’ve seen.  The quotes GOP operatives amass will directly reflect Obamanomics’ failure to improve the economy.  Democrats won’t be able to argue away Obama’s words as tangential, hyperbolic, or referencing distant episodes in the past.  These words will have been spoken during his campaign and presidency, about his specific policies—and will be demonstrated time and again to be at odds with reality.

For starters, RNC staffers have documented—as revealed in a sneak preview to the Washington Post—Obama’s failed promises to bring millions of Americans out of poverty (millions more are in poverty since he took office), help homeowners get above water via his foreclosure assistance fund (the program helped a fraction of the intended number of owners), create millions of “green” jobs (the number was greatly overestimated, and his efforts overshadowed by the Solyndra bankruptcy), and lower health care premiums (which have increased under ObamaCare).  The GOP will likely nail Obama on the number of jobs his stimulus bill was supposed to create but didn’t, the failure of the stimulus bill to keep unemployment under the promised 8.0%, and the inability of our economy to rebound from the 2008 recession as it has every recession since WWII.

Republicans will censure Obama for disregarding the grand ethics standards he set regarding lobbying and transparency, and his failure to usher in greater civility, bipartisanship, and racial harmony.

Part of the ease of assembling a WikiObama derives from recent technological advances in archiving and indexing video clips.  A bigger part, though, comes from the fact that for four years, Obama hasn’t seemed to know when to shut up.

Ironically, a leader whose vaunted oratorical skills were his strongest asset on the campaign trail will likely be undone by those very words.  If Obama hadn’t aimed so high via his rhetoric, perhaps his words wouldn’t now be coming back to haunt him—but then perhaps he wouldn’t have been elected in the first place.

Had Obama’s economic and foreign policy prescriptions succeeded even moderately over the past three years, then attack ads against him might now seem churlish or petty.  Yet Obama has made so many specific promises, and failed so spectacularly to deliver on them, that pointing out the discrepancies between his assurances and his results will strike undecided voters as the only responsible thing to do.

If Obama had been a big speech-giver, but his policies had been sound—a combination that recalls Ronald Reagan—then his utterances wouldn’t have become the noose with which opponents will now hang him.

Not to be cocky about it, but the RNC’s strategy seems utterly foolproof to me.  How can Obama deny what he said on record?  And—unless economic conditions improve dramatically over the next ten months—how can the country’s circumstances fail to belie the incantations offered by candidate Hope-and-Change?

Regarding The Book, Spicer adds, “This is not an effective tool—it’s the most effective tool.  We literally have gone through and looked at this over and over again.  Survey after survey, focus group after focus group all say this is the most effective way to bring [independents] over to our side.”

It’s also the most honest and focused technique.  And GOP operatives won’t even have to revisit potshots like “57 states,” “corpse-man,” and “breathalyzer.”

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What Obama Could Have Done

August 24, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Obama


Image by Scott Spiegel via Flickr

Liberal hack and annoying twerp Ezra Klein recently posted a lament for the president’s waning popularity titled “What could Obama have done?”

Klein’s query is just an updated iteration of an eternal, intractable, metaphysical question for the left: How can Democrats govern like liberals for any extended period of time and generate good results so they can maintain their favorable ratings?

To conservatives (and Bill Clinton), the answer is obvious: You can’t.  Liberal policies don’t work.  Any goodwill remaining toward you from your base for remaining a stubborn ideologue in the face of contrary evidence is overshadowed by widespread revulsion toward the disastrous consequences of your policies.

In other words: Conservatives are never going to like you, a few crazy liberals always will, but a large number of independents, moderates, and center-left voters will abandon you if you don’t give up on your leftist policies after the public realizes you are not a magician.

Since Klein asked, here’s what Obama could have done to enjoy a successful presidency and retain the sky-high favorability ratings he held in those blissful few minutes after he was sworn in before the trouble began.

Let’s start with the good news—things Obama did and should have done (hurry back from the fridge, right-wingers; this won’t take long!):

He didn’t get in the way of the Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden.  He voiced support for the protestors in Egypt’s Tahrir Square calling for the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.  He joined a coalition of nations in materially aiding the Libyan rebels who took down Gaddafi.  He signed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  He extended the Bush tax cuts and argued for their utility during a recession.

Also, a few things Obama shouldn’t have done and didn’t:

He gave up on closing the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay.  He reversed his pledge to hold a civilian trial for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.  He supported renewing the Patriot Act, thus abandoning his campaign promise to end warrantless wiretaps of those with terrorist connections.  He never pushed through global warming legislation imposing caps on carbon dioxide emissions.

Much longer is the list of things Obama did and shouldn’t have done:

He shouldn’t have signed the $1 trillion stimulus bill, which had a trivial impact on job growth, did nothing to stop the rise of unemployment, and exploded the national deficit.

He shouldn’t have signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which infringes on individual liberties, raises the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars, and implements none of the free-market reforms House Republicans proposed.

He shouldn’t have signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which gave two of the architects of the subprime lending-induced financial crisis the power to impose massive, vague, disruptive regulations on the banking industry, without even revoking the much-hated principle “too big to fail.”

He shouldn’t have signed Congress’s August 2011 bill raising the debt ceiling, which was both unnecessary and insufficient to prevent an S&P downgrade, and whose spending cuts are miniscule in the short-term, dependent on the caprice of a bipartisan “supercommittee” in the medium-term, and likely to be overturned by future Congresses in the long-term.

He shouldn’t have authorized rounds one and two of quantitative easing, which have led to rising inflation.

He shouldn’t have created a botched fund to prevent home foreclosures, one of many examples of his administration’s propensity to reward failure.

He shouldn’t have supported the National Labor Relations Board’s decision to prevent Boeing from relocating part of its operations from a unionized state (Washington) to a right-to-work state (South Carolina).

He shouldn’t have taken over the nation’s largest car companies and signed into law the wasteful Cash for Clunkers program.

He shouldn’t have showily banned waterboarding as an enhanced interrogation technique, insisted that Israel return to its pre-1967 borders, demanded premature troop withdrawal in Afghanistan independent of the advice of generals running the war, or bowed to the British Queen, the Saudi king, and every other world leader he could.

Finally, he shouldn’t have blamed George W. Bush, the Republican minority in Congress, the Tea Party, the BP oil spill, the Arab Spring, the Japanese tsunami, ATMs, corporate jet owners, Europe’s sovereign debt crisis, a butterfly flapping its wings in Tobago—anything but his own policies—for the country’s economic woes.

And here are the things Obama didn’t do but should have:

He should have demanded that Congress pass budgets for fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

He should have made the Bush tax cuts permanent.

He should have supported free-market health care reforms, such as allowing the sale of insurance across state lines, expanding health savings accounts, and enacting malpractice tort reform.

He should have voiced greater support for Iran’s and Syria’s pro-reform protestors.

Happy you asked, Ezra?

And one more thing Obama didn’t do but should have.

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When $814 Billion Just Isn’t Enough for a Guy

September 08, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Economy

WI: Milwaukee Laborfest & Obama rally, Septemb...
Image by aflcio via Flickr

The stimulus bill Congress passed in February 2009 was supposed to be spent predominantly on infrastructure rebuilding projects.

At an address to AFL-CIO members at Laborfest in Milwaukee on Monday, President Barack Obama pushed an additional $50 billion-plus stimulus bill designed to fulfill the novel task of… rebuilding the country’s infrastructure.

Obama warmed up his working class audience by wearing an open-collar shirt with rolled up sleeves, referring to his listeners as “folks,” and reminding them of the miserably unprosperous Reagan years, when unemployment plummeted from a Carter-induced 10% in 1982 to 5% by the end of Reagan’s second term.

The President’s proposed infrastructure spending aimed to rebuild roads, railways, and runways, not to mention public union coffers and Democratic Congressional reelection campaigns.

The bill would be paid for by eliminating tax breaks for oil and gas companies, also known as “raising taxes.”

In addition, the President proposed a new federal Infrastructure Bank of unspecified cost and scope that would use tax dollars to borrow private funds to fuel future projects.  You know—sort of a cross between Amtrak and Fannie Mae, with all the efficiency of the former and all the transparency of the latter.

Chastising Republicans for their platform of “No, We Can’t” and their propensity to oppose everything he suggests, Obama declared, “If I said the sky was blue, they’d say no.  If I said fish live in the sea, they’d say no.”  Actually, if he said never-ending Keynesian spending orgies stimulate long-term economic growth, we’d say no.  But close!

Obama announced that he would “keep fighting, every single day, every single hour, every single minute to turn this economy around.”  (He did not say “every single second”—a guy does need time to get in some golf swings and order shrimp baskets in between bouts of pondering the economy.)

Behold a president whose economic ideas are so muddled that he could pronounce, in his speech, “[A]nyone who thinks we can move this economy forward with a few doing well at the top, hoping it’ll trickle down to working folks… just [hasn’t] studied our history”; and then, a few paragraphs later, brag, “[W]e’ve given tax cuts to small business owners…  [W]e’re cutting taxes for companies that put our people to work here at home.”  Gee—I wonder how giving tax breaks to companies helps the middle class?  Perhaps, when taxes are lowered, wealthy company owners have more money to hire workers?  You might almost say that tax cuts cause jobs to “trickle down” to the working class.

When the stimulus bill failed to reduce unemployment last year, liberal commentators snickered at how dumb conservatives were for expecting the bill to have an effect right away.  In late spring 2009, when unemployment was at 8.5%, they said, Just wait a few more months.  At the end of the summer, when unemployment was at 9.5%, they said, Just wait till the end of the year.  At the end of the year, when unemployment was over 10%, they said, The stimulus could actually take years to lay bare its brilliant results.

Eighteen months after the stimulus bill was passed, the House Ways and Means Committee reported that more than 2.5 million jobs had been lost.

In order to minimize the egg on their faces a year from now, the Obama administration simply refuses to estimate how many jobs its new not-a-stimulus stimulus bill would create.

Obama’s announcement represents a perverse stubbornness to acknowledge that his party’s economic ideas simply aren’t working.  The one thing that might save his presidency would be for him to turn into President Bill Clinton and start governing from the center, but then he would have to admit that he was wrong, which he refuses to do.

The clincher that liberals know they should be following conservatives’ advice always comes when they trot out the old canard that “Republican leadership hasn’t brought any helpful ideas to the table.”  That’s what they said when conservatives rejected their nationalized health care scheme last year.  The claim was belied by dozens of innovative health care reform bills Republicans had introduced in the House that never even left the referral stage.

The Tea Party’s Contract from America, for starters, lists 10 fantastic ideas for strengthening the economy and creating an environment favorable to growth and development, such as simplifying the tax system, imposing caps on annual federal spending increases, and permanently extending the Bush tax cuts.  In other words, “no helpful ideas.”

Obama’s latest tin-eared proposal is final proof, in 12-foot tall, blood-red, block letters, for those who still need it, that he doesn’t get it: Americans are furious and terrified about the mountains of debt he has piled on top of us, and don’t believe any of his spending programs have done a thing to help the economy.

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